|2011 Maneuver Conference, Columbus, GA during a break|
This past week I was up in Columbus Georgia attending the 2011 Maneuver Conference held at the Columbus Georgia Georgia Convention and Trade Center, hosted by the Maneuver Center of Excellence at near-by Ft. Benning.
The majority of the activity was held in the Iron Works combined Ballrooms A, B, and C (see above). By the time all three rooms were combined, you had enough room to hold thousands, and it was indeed packed. All the chairs were filled and there were people standing across the back three walls, at many places three deep. Colonels and Generals from the Army were giving talks about training, and all aspects of training. And right in the middle if it were a group of professional photographers, at least two of which were women.
I have no problem with women photographers; I have a youngest daughter who wants to become a pro photographer. That's not my issue.
My issue was how they were photographing the speakers up at the front. They were using what appeared to be remotely triggered flashes in beauty light reflectors on both far sides of the ballroom, aimed back over the crowd towards the middle of the back wall (the front is where the entrances are located). When the speakers were making a presentation the ballroom lights were turned down to give better contrast to the screens at the back (which you can see above). And every time they'd take a photograph in that low light setting both flashes would go off, sometimes many times in short order.
I don't know what kind of flash gear they were using. I refused to get close enough to find out, out of professional courtesy (ironic considering that their use of flash I did not consider courteous) that I might get too close and cause a problem. Nor do I know what brand or model of camera they were using. But I do know this.
I know that the lighting on the stages where the speakers delivered their presentation had more than adequate lighting for available light photography. There was a large A/V setup on the front wall opposite from the stage, and the video cameras in the back were used to project the presenters against those screens you see along the back wall above, so that all could see and hear. Considering the high-ISO capabilities of current Canon and Nikon mid- to high-end bodies, there is absolutely no excuse not to use available light, unless you're down-right ignorant.
Add to this that the photographers were dressed very casually, and were moving around the center part of the ballroom from front to back, and it reached a point where if I'd been able to I would have ejected them all.
If there's any lesson I would give to my daughter (or anyone else), it's to never ever do a job the way this one was done. As a photographer, pro or otherwise, your job is to do your best as innocuously as possible. That means staying out of way and doing nothing to call attention to yourself, such as a gross use of flash. If you don't have the gear to do it right, then rent it.
The more I think about this the more I believe this was handled not by a paid pro buy by local staff to the convention center. Or maybe it was a pro, but a cheap pro. I certainly can't prove it, but it leads me to believe this was done on the cheap, which is indeed a shame if it was.
Photo taken with a piddly-old Olympus E-P2 with M.Zuiko 14-42mm Mk I kit lens zoomed out to 14mm at ISO 1600, hand held over my head, at 1/25 second. Color adjusted in Lightroom 3.4. If you pixel peep you can see the grain/noise. I was in the far right corner looking back towards the screens and the speaker stage.